Legacy giving in the global arena

7 December 2015

Back in 1993, Diana Newman and colleagues at the Columbus Foundation in the US were sat around a table wondering why so few people left gifts in their Wills.

“I imagine they never even thought about doing it,” she said. “That got several of us thinking about a community-wide effort to encourage everyone to consider charities in their Will.

Leave A Legacy, the public awareness campaign, quickly grew across North America. And that was the start of this exciting movement.”

Today there are eighteen international campaigns, spanning Australasia, Europe and the USA.

A new concept in many countries

The concept of legacy giving is still a new one in many countries and some face unique challenges.

The obstacles we faced in the early days of Leave a Legacy were nothing compared to difficulties colleagues in other parts of the world deal with.

As Tomas Vyhnalek, coordinator of the brand-new Czech campaign Zavet Pomaha told me, “Philanthropy was destroyed during communism. And we are now trying to bring it back to life.”

“You can’t do that”

Spanish campaign Legado Solidario had an intriguing start. It began when international fundraising consultant Daryl Upsall and his Spanish-born wife visited a Madrid lawyer to do their Wills.

They wanted 30% of their estates go to charity. The lawyer glanced up sharply and said, “You can’t do that!” This galvanized Daryl into action, because he knew you can.

It took four years to bring an initial group of nine charities on board. They combined resources for donor research which revealed an “overwhelming lack of awareness of the need or value of writing a will, or that they were even allowed to leave anything to a charity.”

Since launching the campaign in 2006, legacy income has grown by 172% among its 24 members.

Successes beyond North America

Europe has become a hotbed of great legacy campaigns, and it’s a challenge to keep up with developments.

In February the Netherlands-based “Goed Nalaten” campaign, headed by Theo Hesen, organised the first-ever gathering of European legacy campaigners.

“Legavision 2015” was attended by legacy experts from countries including Austria, Belgium, Italy and Slovakia.

Why do we need legacy-awareness campaigns?

The UK’s Remember A Charity says it best: “To do what no single charity has ever been able to achieve on its own: make legacy giving a social norm.”

It’s fascinating to see how each country has adapted the “tried and true” principles of legacy marketing towards this end goal.

There seem to be endless variations on the theme of how to tell the legacy story and inspire people to take action.

Common ground

Despite each campaign’s individuality, there are certain characteristics most have in common:

  • Strength in numbers: campaigns vary from a dozen to over a hundred participating charities
  • Helping members of the public connect with professional advisors
  • Annual charity week: many campaigns focus a push of activity around an annual awareness week
  • Creative marketing: use of humour is also often employed, for example with the branding of the Swiss campaign “My Happy End”

It’s inspiring to see how a new generation of fundraisers are expanding the idea of legacy-awareness campaigns across the globe. And they’re reaping the benefits both today and for future generations.

Natasha van Bentum, CFRE Advisor and Outreach Director at G2 Give Green Canada

This post is a shortened version of the original full article which appeared in “Planned Giving Today” (USA), April 2015.

Find out more about Remember A Charity’s international partners.